The NCAA Board of Governors voted Wednesday to require cities to prove they can provide an environment free of discrimination before they can host any event, including the men's and women's basketball Final Fours.
The move is a response to several states establishing laws that allow business owners to deny services to individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the NCAA said in a statement.
“The higher education community is a diverse mix of people from different racial, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation backgrounds,” said Kirk Schulz, president of Kansas State University and chairman of the Board of Governors. “So it is important that we assure that community – including our student-athletes and fans – will always enjoy the experience of competing and watching at NCAA championships without concerns of discrimination.”
Sites that have already been chosen for future events will have to meet the criteria as well.
The vote took place during the board's quarterly meeting in Indianapolis, which has also hosted numerous Final Four events, most recently in 2015, and is slated to do so again for the men's basketball tournament in 2021.
Last year, Indiana amended a so-called religious liberty law to include language preventing business owners from denying services based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other factors -- but only after enormous public outcry that included calls for the NCAA to relocate the Final Four that year.
Atlanta is on tap to host the 2020 men's basketball Final Four. Earlier this year, Georgia governor Nathan Deal vetoed a similar law in his state.
The NCAA said in the statement: "The Association considers the promotion of inclusiveness in race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity as a vital element to protecting the well-being of student-athletes, promoting diversity in hiring practices and creating a culture of fairness."